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GARDENING Top of the crops

MAT COWARD gives his pick of the best seeds for January

MOST growers reckon that tomatoes raised in a greenhouse don’t have quite the flavour of those grown outside. Despite this, a lot of people have more or less given up outdoor toms because they’re so susceptible to blight, a common disease which can ruin the entire crop. 

If that’s you, you’ll be glad to hear of a new cultivar called Oh Happy Day, available from Plants of Distinction (01449-721720; www.plantsofdistinction.co.uk). 

In trials it’s been found to be the last variety to succumb to late blight, meaning it’s got an excellent chance of ripening its fruit before the plant topples over. The flavour is said to be a pleasing balance of sweet and acid.

Anyone familiar with Japanese restaurant cuisine will recognise edamame, those young soya beans which are cooked and served in the pod, for the diner to squeeze, elegantly or otherwise, into her mouth. 

Soya is notoriously hard to grow in this country, but perhaps the immature beans are easier. Certainly, Thompson & Morgan (0844 573-1818; www.thompson-morgan.com) say that their new seeds of Edamame Green Shell have done well in trials.

One of the strangest-looking vegetables I’ve seen in a while is a dual-purpose ornamental and edible kale named White Peacock, from Suttons Seeds (0844 326-2200; www.suttons.co.uk). It has highly serrated, white leaves which fan out like a blooming flower.

One I’m really looking forward to trying this year is a pea called Spring Blush, from Dobies (0844 967-0303; www.dobies.co.uk). 

Described as high-yielding and tall-growing, it has bicoloured blooms in purple and pink and what looks like a very attractive rose blush on its edible green pods. 

It can be picked as either a mangetout or a sugar snap and is also said to produce a large number of “hyper tendrils” which can be eaten as pea shoots in the Chinese manner.

For those who find it hard to grow cauliflowers with tight, white heads, which is just about every gardener I’ve ever met, I like the sound of Cauliflower Chinese Sprouting, from DT Brown (0845 371-0532; www.dtbrownseeds.co.uk).

This one is actually supposed to have loose “blown” heads when mature, so that’s one less thing to go wrong. You harvest it by taking individual stems as the florets develop, as if it was broccoli.

Marshalls (0844 557-6700; www.marshalls-seeds.co.uk) have joined with the National Vegetable Society to promote a new sweet pepper, Gogorez. 

The large, red fruits are shaped like beefsteak tomatoes which means there’s much less waste in the kitchen. 

Because the walls of the fruits are thick and fleshy, they’re ideal for roasting or stuffing. The plants are climbers, too, which saves space.

Oasis is a turnip intended to be grown for use raw in summer salads, rather than cooked in winter stews. Available from Chiltern Seeds (01491 824-675; www.chilternseeds.co.uk), it apparently tastes like melon, with the crunch of water chestnuts. Its leaves are good to eat as well and it only takes eight weeks from sowing.

 

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